A few years ago, I suffered from pneumonia. It took me nearly three months to recover and I had to spend two months more or less in bed. At the same time, I was taking care of three children.
It started on a Sunday. At nine o clock in the morning I felt alright, at eleven o clock I was dizzy and at one o clock I could not get up anymore. My husband was there to help me on Sunday and he brought the children to school on Monday. But from then on I was more or less on my own.
I could hardly move – going to the kitchen to get some tea or even going to the loo became simply unmanageable. Yet I managed. I even picked the children up from school and sometimes I was strong enough to bring them to their afternoon activities. In general, I stayed in bed, though. Here is how I kept them occupied:
1.) Creative TV
They were allowed to watch a movie each day. Afterwards, they had to draw a picture or write an essay about it. I also encouraged them to show me what had happened in the movie in a short theatre performance in my bedroom. That way, I did not have such a bad conscience about leaving them in front of the TV.
2.) Playing doctor
We played “hospital”. I was the patient. The nurse was bringing me food and drinks, measuring my temperature and taking care of my needs. The doctor (my youngest son) usually performed difficult surgeries, cutting my head when I had a headache or “cleaning” my lungs with a sponge from the outside. I also employed a child as “cleaning lady”. This game was not only helpful, it was also fun for all of us.
3.) Homework games
My husband had brought the children’s desks into my bedroom. They did their homework there. When they had finished, they had to have a look at each other’s notebooks. They would grade the efforts of their siblings: handwriting, mistakes, and so on…In the end, I had a look at it as well.
We put meditative music in the CD player, dimmed the lights and “meditated” together.
5.) Picnic in bed
When I was too tired to eat in the dining room with my children, we had a picnic – I ate in bed (if I felt like eating at all) and they had a snack on a blanket on the floor. Sometimes we would pretend to be on a safari in Africa, hunted by lions or on a sailing ship in the Atlantic, followed by Moby Dick. The children brought some travel books, binoculars and cameras to my room to make this game more credible.
6.) Board game olympics
We played board games as well. Often, I only had to participate in the beginning and could then nod off. I pretended to be their arbitrator when I awoke again. We did entire board game olympics in those weeks.
7.) Building castles out of pillows and blankets
I encouraged them to bring pillows, blankets and other useful furniture to my bedroom and build entire landscapes there. The cat was so happy!
8.) Circus performances
I wanted them to move as well, so I asked them to prepare circus performances for me, which they did. I had put a mattress in my bedroom. They dressed up, did their own make up, chose their music and prepared a scenario. It was great.
9.) Treasure hunt in the apartment
When I had enough energy, I hid some objects in different rooms and made them compete against each other in a treasure hunt. In order to find the objects, they had to solve riddles.
10.) Acting charades
Whether virus, bacteria, lung or penicillin – we acted in all out in medical charades organized in my bedroom.
When I was too tired to watch them play from my bed, I made them call other people. Or watch TV again. It was not ideal, but we all did our best during those weeks. I did not have as much help as I should have – it is a wonder I coped. Still, these occupational strategies were helpful.